MOCRA exhibitions: Robert Farber: A Retrospective, 1985-1995

A retrospective of the brief career of an artist who brought his own experiences, especially his struggle with AIDS, to bear in his work, and made connections across time and geography to enrich our understanding.

Robert Farber: A Retrospective, 1985 - 1995

November 18, 2000  - January 28, 2001
     free public opening reception 
     Sunday, November 18, 5:00 - 7:00 p.m.
exhibition extended through April 1, 2001

Day Without Art 2000
an annual observance on the eve of World AIDS Day, bringing together members of the St. Louis visual and performing arts communities

     Thursday, November 30, 2000  6 p.m.
     for more information click here

An exhibition catalog is available for sale;
all proceeds will be given to the AIDS Foundation of Saint Louis

General Exhibition Information
Hours: Tues - Sun, 11 am - 4 pm
Directions and Parking information
Group visit information

Here is an artist whose gift and command are profound;
and, here is an artist who can move and shame one simultaneously,
so urgent and wrenched is his accomplishment.
   - Edward Albee, playwright

Robert Farber - Altar #1 (1990)

Altar #1, 1990. Mixed media, gold leaf,
black and white photograph on wood.
20 x 24 in. Collection of MOCRA.

New York artist Robert Farber turned to art in his mid-30s and pursued it until his death in 1995 at the age of 47. His work has been shown in such distinguished institutions as the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the New Museum of Contemporary Art, the Rose Art Museum of Brandeis University, and the Fisher Gallery at the University of Southern California.

This exhibition includes some of Farber’s early, highly autobiographical works. After learning in 1989 that he was HIV positive, he turned to AIDS as the dominant subject of his art. This approach culminated in his most important work, the Western Blot series (1991-94), large constructions that combine painting, drawing, texts and architectural elements. These works move beyond individual experience and take on a global perspective that links present reality with a Europe ravaged by the bubonic plague centuries ago.

It is a vision by turns painful, moving, compassionate and courageous -- and always thoughtful. "Farber’s work has less finality, and more hope in my view, representing not death at all, but the struggle of art to frame life while it can still be lived," writes art historian Michael Camille. At a time when many Americans seem apathetic and willfully ignorant about AIDS' impact throughout the world, Farber’s work insists that we take notice, and suggests a life-affirming way of addressing the crisis.

Robert Farber - Western Blot #19 (detail) (1993)

Western Blot #19, 1990. Mixed media on wood panels. 60 x 81 in. 
Courtesy of the Robert D. Farber Foundation.

Additional links

Robert Farber in The Estate Project

Robert Farber obituary in The New York Times

Boccaccio's Decameron - a source for several of Farber's works

Robert Farber: A Retrospective in the media
Higher purpose. Greater good.
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